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Can this strange change take place without producing some effect? will she be satisfied and contented ? will conscience never reproach her? will she have no misgivings? will the days of her life,
_" glide softly o'er her head,
Made up of innocence"Will she never institute any comparison between the moral state of her home, and that in which she drew her infant breath, and spent the years of childhood and of youth? Will she never contrast the piety of her father, with the irreligion of her husband ? the devotional spirit of her mother, with her wounded, because guilty spirit? But admitting that in process of time, she outgrows the vulgar prejudices she was once taught to reverence, and that she can reconcile her mind, to this strange change
- that she feels at perfect liberty, now she has cast off the restraints of religion, to indulge herself in the follies and dissipations of fashion ; what will be her reflections in the hour of sickness ? and from whence can she derive consolation when death approaches ? Ah it is then, the secrets of her soul speak out! it is then that her criminal folly appears in all its aggravated forms of guilt! it is then she reverts to her former home, her earlier associations, her pristine impressions of religious truth; but alas she reverts to them, as the bereaved wi. dow reverts to the spot where she last saw her husband, before he fell under the hand of the assassin, and to the peaceful adieu, which he uttered when turning from her. She goes back to these scenes, not for comfort, but for torture ; not to gather up the fragments of hope, but to give a keener point to her desponding grief; not to call back “joys that are departed,” but to increase the intensity of her mental anguish, by contrasting it with what she once enjoyed. And if she speak out what she feels, she is either ridiculed for her superstitious folly, or suspected of partial derangement--as no one understands her case.
“ Is it not there that the evil spirits of impurity and of crime, insinuate themselves into the good opinion of the thoughtless youth ? - Is it not there that he often picks up an acquaintance, who leads him, after the farce is concluded, to the tavern-to the gaming table-to the house of ill-fame? Is it not there, that the profligate female practices her arts of seduction ; and bears off, in her unhallowed embraces, the palm of his virtue ?"
COURT, AND AVE-MARIA LANE.
ON THEATRICAL AMUSEMENTS.
" Immodest words admit of no defence,
Mr. Lewellin. “ But, Sir, though I have consented to follow
you in this digression from the question under consideration, you
will now permit me to return to it. The question is not, what will a theatrical audience do, when an actor is convicted in a court of justice of one of the worst of crimes which can be committed against the sanctity of domestic bliss ? but, what is such an audience accustomed to do, when a lewd, or profane Comedy -when a Comedy which is the abuse of the thing -when a Comedy which is the school of vice, is brought on the stage, and acted in their presence ?»
Mr. Talbot. “Why, Sir, I presume you know that the public often reject plays ?”
Mr. Lewellin. Yes, Sir, when they are not to their liking.”
Mr. Talbot. “Well, Sir, then the point is decided.”
Mr. Lewellin. “Nay, good Sir, not till you have proved that their lewdness, their profanity, their demoralizing tendency, was the cause of their dislike. Prove that, Sir, and you have gained your point; and redeemed the audience from the heavy charge which I now bring against it, of having uniformly given the least degree of support to the purest plays, and the greatest degree of support to the most objectionable. While the writers of Comedy have manifested a fatal tendency to mix up with their plots, incidents which we could not tolerate in virtuous life—to introduce characters in their scenes which we should shun in private as the corrupters of our manners—and to excite ridicule and contempt against the religion of our country, by leading her ministers on the stage, and compelling them to sin in public; the audience have uniformly exclaimed, “Ah, Ah, so we should have it. This is to our taste.' The play is again and again called for. What you call the abuse of the thing has been, and still is, more popular than the thing existing in its purity. How
will you account for this? unless you admit, that the taste of the audience is formed from the character of their amusements, which, with few exceptions, being as schools for vice, are found to deprave and vitiate it."
Mr. Talbot. “Why, Sir, I admit, that many who attend our theatres are persons of dubious virtue; yet, formerly a great frequenter of plays, I can flatly contradict this imputed propensity on the part of the public to applaud a licentious part: I have always heard noble sentiments echoed in public applause; and on several occasions the lurking remains of the old broad Comedy received with marked disapprobation. And whatever be the opinion of those who do not go to the play, these facts will be corroborated by all who do." Mr. Lewellin.
that all who
to plays corroborate the facts that noble sentiments are always applauded, and obscene expressions are marked with disapprobation. Now, Sir, I can flatly contradict this assertion, if not from personal observation, yet from undoubted testimony. I grant, thať fine passages, delivered in a fine style, and which breathe the noble sentiments of patriotism, and valour, and benevolence, and indignation against some unpopular vice, are heard with raptures of delight; but, Sir, the self same audience, which makes the house ring with its applauses on these occasions, give, not only the sanction of its silence to the most profane sentiments, and the most licentious intrigues, but often, too often, the sanction of its blushing smiles--and often, the reward of its less equivocal—its direct, and positive approbation. If this bê not the case, how comes it to pass that those plays, which are the school of vice, still appear on the stage, and still retain their hold on popular favour ?"
Mr. Talbot. “What plays do you refer to ?”
Mr. Talbot. “ The Hypocrite! What! do you object to the Hypocrite ?. A Comedy which has been selected for the enjoyment of royalty, and in which a favourable example is illustrated of the attempt of fanaticism to undermine the principle, property, and virtue of society, for its own individual advantage, and under the specious garb of religion, to render crime a kind of pastime! Surely, Sir, you must have a strong liking indeed for the nice morality,' quite a la mode Puritan, to wish to take out a bill of attainder against that most excellent Comedy! I can hardly think you are serious."
* Many of the sentiments and expressions which Mr. Talbot introduces in this discussion, may be found in some recent publications.
Mr. Lewellin. “The design of that Comedy is to hold up personal piety to ridicule and contempt, by associating it with the weakness of the intellect_the vulgarity, of unpolished manners, and the vices of the human character ; and though the writer makes an effort at the conclusion to redeem it from such an imputation, yet such is its obvious tendency, and such is the effect which it is known to produce on the audience. But, Sir, as I wish to shape my objections into a tangible form; allow me to say, that I object to the introduction of a Clergyman on the stage who is made to act a part in the drama of vice, even while he makes high pretensions to an elevated piety, which is no less disgusting than it is unnatural, and more calculated to excite
prejudice against the more devout part of the clerical order, than to induce the hypocritical to throw off the mask. Is this favourable to the cultivation and growth of virtue? It may be of the virtue of a theatrical audience, which reaches not the maturity of its growth, till it has acquired the art of caricaturing righteousness, after it has been accustomed to make a mock of sin; but it is destructive of that pure religion which teaches us to avoid all filthiness of manners, and all foolish talking; and to correct our personal imperfections, instead of making sport with the vices of others. I have read this disgusting Comedy, and I do not hesitate to say, that its indecent allusions-its profane language and its amorous intrigues are enough to corrupt any mind; and that, that female who can retire from the theatre after the curtain drops with a desire to see it performed again, must have lost all the fine bloom of pristine modesty, which once adorned the temper of her mind, and that she ought not to be surprized, especially if her veil be thrown off her face, if the prowling libertine, who knows not her name, should mistake her for one of the hired servants of iniquity.”